HOW CATASTROPHIC STORMS CAN AFFECT YOUR BUDGET
Life After A Hurricane or Tornado
A Hurricane can change your life forever. One day you are living in an older home and the next day it is gone. Lifted off of its foundations by storm surge and overpowering winds, you come back from your evacuation trip out of town and find that your abode is torn apart or the whole structure has been moved somewhere else. Walls and roofs blown out mean there is little left to build on. Trees on top of broken rafters crushed the life out of that aging structure that dared stand in the way.
As bad as hurricanes are, tornadoes are so much worse. Almost no building can withstand the forces generated by winds that can approach 200 mph or more. Watching a video of the F5 juggernaut that hit Joplin, Missouri, it was a sobering sight. Damage everywhere in the storm’s path. Businesses and homes obliterated beyond recognition.
People are left homeless and many lose everything they have built for themselves over the years. The really sad thing is that finances can be damaged to the breaking point. No flood insurance means you are on your own when waters plow through the neighborhood. Extremely high deductibles mean intermediate wind damage is not covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.
In Florida, insurance companies have worked out an agreement with the State Insurance Commissioner that allows them to pass on the first $4,400 dollars of damage from a hurricane. In return, they provide coverage for all homes including ones that are at the highest risk.
What Can You Expect To Happen In A Worst-Case Scenario
Insurance can be prohibitive if you live near the coast or by a river with a history of flood waters overflowing its banks. Too many homes have been built on concrete slabs near ground level that make them prime candidates for total destruction or at least some serious damage. I know of homeowners in Mississippi that are now paying $6,000 a year or more in flood protection thanks to Katrina, and their structures are 10 to 12 feet up in the air.
Older homes do not have the metal straps that tie the roof rafters to the studs and the studs to the floor joists or concrete slap. Windows are exposed, shingles are not adequately fastened, and doors get blown open. When I see an entire house floated off of its foundation or turned upside down with floor joists exposed, I know right away it was built before stringent and protective building codes were enforced.
If your home does survive, you could be without power, Internet, or phone service for weeks or months. Local stores are shut down and there is no place close by to stay. Water can be scarce and gas station waiting lines will be long if the underground storage tanks even have anything left.
Since this blog is really about finances and protecting your budget, I will not linger on the devastating effects of a such a calamitous event. I will offer insights for preparation before and survival tactics after the monster’s debilitating march through your community. The focus here will be the Country House.
- Hurricane Shutters can be made out of plywood to save the boatloads of money needed for acquiring metal panels and attachment hardware. I had a home with 6 sliding glass patio doors. Several hurricanes forced those doors to bulge inward from the force of high winds beating against them almost to the breaking point. I eventually used 1/2″ exterior grade plywood panels with special clips for each regular sized window. To protect the patio doors, I used full sized sheets with 1×4 boards and screws. My tab was about a 1/4 of the cost of metal panels installed by contractors that specialize in that service.
- Metal Roofs are your best bet for endurance and sustained wind protection, especially if you live out in the country. If one or more panels are damaged or ripped off, they are easy to replace. With a shingle or tile roof, the damage usually means repairing a large section of the roof or redoing the whole thing altogether. This means bringing in a high priced professional roofing company in most cases. The upfront cost of a metal roof is well worth the price in the long run.
- A Generator of at least 2500 to 3000 watts will save your costly food that is in the refrigerator and freezer (I plug in 2 refrigerators and 1 freezer). The gas will cost about $10 to $12 per cycle before a fill up is needed. You should only run it during your waking hours. Turn it off when bedtime arrives and restart it the next morning when you awake. The food will be fine. The freezer will still have the contents frozen inside. Not opening the fridge doors while generator is off will keep the unfrozen food cold in it as well.
- The Electric Water Well Pump is going to quit working as soon as power goes out for your area. If you fill the bathtub with water ahead of time, you can use that water to flush the toilet and take sponge baths with. You can fill individual bottles for drinking or cooking with. The cost of crating loads of bottled water from the store can be avoided, and your deep well-supplied water is probably better for you anyways.
- BBQ or Camp Stove cooking can be really inexpensive if you use large propane gas containers for fuel. They will last quite a long time and allow you to readily prepare a lot of meals.
- A Microwave Oven can be used if you temporarily borrow one of the extension chords running from a generator to your refrigerator (which can be pulling up to 800 watts or more while the unit’s compressor is running). The high power setting on an MW can pull as much as 1500 watts all by itself. So, this procedure will save you the anxiety caused by blown breakers on the generator. With that said, you must take heed of what you are doing and be careful.
- LED Lighting (Light Emitting Diode) for flashlights or emergency lamps will greatly extend the life of costly batteries, and you won’t need to stock up on them near as often. Even though the LED replacement bulbs are pricey, the better ones last almost forever.
- Vehicle (and Generator) Fuel may be subject to premium pricing during the crisis, so do yourself a favor and stock up early because the higher octane grades get sold out first. Long lines may mean your gas tank is being drained while you wait your turn or for the next tanker delivery to arrive. The more expensively priced stations in the area will be the last ones to have fuel available. How many gas cans you have and want to fill is up to you, but don’t wait until the last minute to buy extra ones. A generator will go through a 5 gallon canister in about a day or so.
- Dealing With Utility Providers is an option relatively few people pursue. When the storm is over and large areas around you are impacted, you can ask for concessions with the utility companies and phone providers. In my case, I asked for assistance from both Dish TV and Verizon after Hurricane Michael. As a result of my efforts, Dish gave me 2 weeks of credit on my next bill. Verizon gave me 3 months of free service starting with my next billing cycle and 30% off the first bill coming due.
- Mortgage Company Forbearance Options can be a big help. When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, my mortgage company offered me 3 months of forbearance, which I accepted. This meant that I did not have to pay a monthly mortgage payment during that time and no penalties were enforced. I could have requested the same for Hurricane Michael, but I chose not to. The option does give you a chance to buy some time to get things back in order. You then have different methods available to help you get payments up to date at a later date.
- A Hotel Bill can break the bank if the stay is long term, so to speak. $80 to $120 per night means $3,600 per month. You usually have to front the money before you are reimbursed by an insurance company, if you are even covered for that expense at all.
- Credit and Bank Card Online System Access may be down which eliminates the possibility of using them when they are needed most. As an alternative, you will need some ready cash to get you through.
- An RV Rental or Purchase may be the only viable recourse for accommodations. When I went to renovate homes in New Orleans after Katrina, there was virtually no place to live or set up shop. I finally used our dwindling cash reserves to buy an RV. I still have it and will keep it up to snuff as needs be, If another big one hits and power and water is out for a long time, we can use the updated water supply in the holding tank to take showers with as well as for cooking and drinking.
Even though I am no expert on saving money, I am a survivor. I have offered tips on what I have experienced and what you can do yourself to get through it all. If any of this advice has helped you, please let me know. And if you have other ideas on ways to budget your money throughout a catastrophic ordeal, I would love to share them with my readers.
I know more events are going to happen in the future. It seems like they are now more ferocious than ever and they will take place more often. I just hope that insights into preparation will save people the stress of having to go through hell just trying to survive the coming storms.
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!